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Commentary: Cigar Events Worth Attending and Fighting For

5 Jul 2012

Last weekend I attended Famous Smoke Shop’s Cigarnival at their year-old Leaf Cigar Bar, Restaurant, and Lounge location. The event reminded me why cigar smokers wanting to learn more about the craft of cigars should attend events, whether just a small visit by a brand representative to their local shop or a large event like Cigarnival, with nearly 1,000 attendees and two dozen or so industry representatives.

Often it’s the perks that bring people to such events. In the case of Cigarnival 2012, it was enough cigars and swag to cover the cost of the ticket ($180), not to mention the unlimited beer, lunch, dinner, and carnival show. At smaller events it’s the special event deal or free samples.

But the best part of such shows is getting a few minutes with the guys who actually make the cigars we enjoy on a daily basis, and in my experience they are always willing to spend a few minutes talking with their customers.

No question will go unanswered if you just ask. In just a few hours, I was able to talk with Pete Johnson (Tatuaje), Jesus Fuego (J. Fuego Cigars), Abe Flores (Pinar del Rio), Ricky Rodriguez and Michael Giannini (General Cigar), Sean Williams (El Primer Mundo), Jonathan Drew (Drew Estate), José Blanco (Joya de Nicaragua), Brad Mayo (Jameson Cigars) and many others. (Details about some of the upcoming projects they told me about will be coming in a future article previewing the 2012 Trade Show.)

And although I was there as press, I saw many regular cigar-loving attendees do the same. It’s one of the things about the premium cigar industry that makes it so easy to write about: The industry is small enough that with minimal effort, whether via social media or in person, anyone can converse with the guys (and gals) responsible for making their favorite smokes.

In other ways, such events showcase the very best of the cigar industry. You meet fellow cigar fans and talk about your shared passion for cigars.

The defense of cigars from meddling politicians was also on display at Cigarnival. The Cigar Rights of America (CRA) booth was busy all day signing up new members.

Later, representatives of CRA were given the stage to explain how important it is to support CRA and the bill in Congress that would stop the FDA regulatation of cigars.

Famous Smoke owner Arthur Zaretsky, who moved the store from New York to Pennsylvania to escape the oppressive New York tax regime, took the stage too, imploring attendees to contact Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey and demand his support for the bill. He then surprised everyone, including CRA representatives, by offering to subsidize half of the cost of CRA membership for anyone who signed up at the event.

All in all, it was a pointed reminder of not only what is so great about cigars, but the challenges cigars face from government regulation and taxes. For example, if the FDA bill doesn’t pass, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine FDA regulations including a ban on samples like those handed out at the event and many similar events around the country.

So enjoy cigar events now, and fight to protect your right to enjoy them in the future by supporting CRA and contacting your representatives in support of the Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act.

Patrick S

photo credit: Famous Smoke

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